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The Eavesdroppers
by [?]

“I suppose you have heard something about the troubles of the Motor Trust? The other directors, you know, are trying to force me out.”

Rodman Brainard, president of the big Motor Corporation, searched the magnetic depths of the big brown eyes of the woman beside his desk. Talking to Constance Dunlap was not like talking to other women he had known, either socially or in business.

“A friend of yours, and of mine,” he added frankly, “has told me enough about you to convince me that you are more than an amateur at getting people out of tight places. I asked you to call because I think you can help me.”

There was a directness about Brainard which Constance liked.

“It’s very kind of you to place such confidence in me–on such short acquaintance,” she returned pointedly, searching his face.

Brainard laughed.

“I don’t need to tell you, Mrs. Dunlap, that anything I have said so far is an open secret in Wall Street. They have threatened to drag in the Sherman law, and in the reorganization that will follow the investigation, they plan to eliminate Rodman Brainard–perhaps set in motion the criminal clauses of the law. It’s nothing, Mrs. Dunlap, but a downright hypocritical pose. They reverse the usual process. It is doing good that evil may result.”

He watched her face intently. Something in her expression seemed to please him. “By George,” he thought to himself, “this is a man’s woman. You can talk to her.”

Brainard, accustomed to quick decisions, added aloud, “Just now they are using Mrs. Brainard as a catspaw. They are spreading that scandal about my acquaintance with Blanche Leblanc, the actress. You have seen her? A stunning woman–wonderful. But I long ago saw that such a friendship could lead to nothing but ruin.” He met Constance’s eye squarely. There was nothing of the adventuress in it as there had been in Blanche Leblanc. “And,” he finished, almost biting off the words, “I decided to cut it out.”

“How does Blanche Leblanc figure in the Motor Trust trouble?” asked Constance keenly.

“They had been shadowing me a long time before I knew it, ferreting back into my past. Yesterday I learned that some one had broken into Miss Leblanc’s apartments and had stolen a package of letters which I wrote to her. It can’t hurt her. People expect that sort of thing of an actress. But it can hurt the president of the Motor Trust– just at present.”

“Who has been doing the shadowing?”

“Worthington, the treasurer, is the guiding spirit of the ‘insurgents’ as they call themselves–it sounds popular, like reform. I understand they have had a detective named Drummond working for them.”

Constance raised her eyes quickly at the name. “Was Drummond always to cross her trail?

“This story of the letters,” he went on, “puts on the finishing touch. They have me all right on that. I can tell by the way that Sybil–er, Mrs. Brainard–acts, that she has read and reread those letters. But, by God,” he concluded, bringing down his fist on the desk, “I shall fight to the end, and when I go down,”–he emphasized each word with an additional blow,–“the crash will bring down the whole damned structure on their own heads, too.”

He was too earnest even to apologize to her. Constance studied the grim determination in the man’s face. He was not one of those destined to fail.

“All is not lost that is in peril, Mr. Brainard,” she remarked quietly. “That’s one of the maxims of your own Wall Street.”

“What would you do?” he asked. It was not an appeal; rather it was an invitation.

“I can’t say, yet. Let me come into the office of the Trust. Can’t I be your private secretary?”

“Consider yourself engaged. Name your figure–after it is over. My record on the Streets speaks for how I stand by those who stand by me. But I hate a quitter.”